Everybody is talking about social and informal learning. But what does”Social Learning” actually mean? How does it work? And can I really benefit from it?
A quick search on the WWW brings light into the darkness: Social Learning Theory says social learning “occurs within a social context. It considers that people learn from one another, including such concepts as observational learning, imitation, and modeling.” (Ormrod, 1999)
So, any time I interact with others, I should be learning something from them. Even if I don’t notice it, I will be a bit smarter than before. In a corporate environment, the killer argument for any initiative or behavioral change which generates intangibles is usually “Oh, I’d love to… but I don’t have time for that.” If social learning theorists are right, you don’t need extra time to learn something new. However, if you spend every day with the same people who do more or less the same job you are doing, there might not be so many new things to observe every day. So, you need to leave your social learning cocoon and get in touch with new people. You might consider to go to lunch with colleagues you have met by chance the other day or maybe there is an after business event where you can make new acquaintances.
But there are even more possibilities to learn the social way: At SAP, we have a new internal carpooling solution called “SAP TwoGo” which is promoted with slogans like: “Make friends for life with TwoGo.” So, I started to think about this a bit more: Wouldn’t it be nice to get a ride to work in the morning by a colleague and when he or she drops you off at your office building, you have become a little bit smarter? Of course, you could also read the latest news on your iPhone while you are on the train… But let’s be honest: That’s a lot more boring than talking to a real person who you can ask a myriad of questions and who will maybe share some real insights with you. Plus, consider the social networking factor: You can drop your lift a call whenever you need more information. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
I gave it a try and signed up with SAP TwoGo. In order to not miss anything important, I came up with a couple of questions I wanted to ask the driver, e.g. “What do you do at SAP?”, “Which future trends do you see?”, “What have you learned on your previous TwoGo rides?” (This last questions aims at knowledge brokering effects 😉 .) Finally, I borrowed a camcorder from my colleague Melanie and recorded my rides. Five colleagues, until then complete strangers to me, agreed to participate in my social learning field experiment named “Marie Wants to Learn”.
Have a look at the first video: